Hawaii Security Deposit Laws in 2024

Introduction to Hawaii Security Deposit Law

Security deposits are funds paid by a renter at the start of a lease to cover any potential damages or unpaid costs when moving out. Understanding how security deposits work is an important part of renting responsibly. This guide provides an overview of Hawaii security deposit laws to inform both tenants and landlords on their rights and obligations. We'll cover key topics like maximum deposits, returning deposits, allowable deductions, disputes, and free resources to help navigate security deposits in Hawaii. Whether you're a long-time renter or leasing your first apartment, you'll learn the essential information to make the security deposit process go smoothly in the Aloha State.

Maximum Allowable Deposit

In Hawaii, landlords are allowed to collect a security deposit from tenants when renting out a property. The maximum allowable deposit depends on whether the rental unit is furnished or unfurnished.

For unfurnished units, Hawaii law allows landlords to collect up to one month's rent as a security deposit. For example, if the monthly rent is $1,000, the maximum deposit would be $1,000. 

For furnished rentals, landlords can charge up to two months' rent as a security deposit. So if rent is $2,000 per month for a furnished unit, the landlord could collect up to $4,000 as a deposit.

The security deposit is intended to protect landlords against any damages or unpaid rent. It is not meant to be an advance payment of rent or a fee. The deposit belongs to the tenant and must be returned at the end of the lease, minus any lawful deductions for damages or unpaid rent.

Hawaii law sets these maximum allowable deposit amounts to protect tenants from excessive deposits. As long as the landlord does not exceed one month's rent for unfurnished units or two months' rent for furnished units, the deposit will be considered legal and valid in Hawaii.

Returning the Deposit

According to Hawaii law, landlords must return the full security deposit to the tenant within 14 days after the tenant has moved out of the rental unit. The landlord must also provide the tenant with a written statement that lists any deductions taken from the deposit along with receipts and invoices for those deductions.

If the landlord cannot determine the exact amount to be deducted within the 14 days, they are still required to provide an estimated accounting of deductions and then must send a final accounting within 30 days. 

Tenants should provide the landlord with a forwarding address when moving out so the landlord knows where to send the deposit refund and itemized deduction statement. It is the tenant's responsibility to ensure the landlord has their updated contact information.

If the landlord fails to return the deposit or provide a written statement of deductions within 14 days, the tenant may have grounds to sue the landlord in small claims court for return of the full deposit. Under Hawaii law, the landlord forfeits the right to retain any portion of the deposit if they do not provide the itemization.

Allowable Deductions

Landlords in Hawaii may legally deduct from the security deposit for the following:

Unpaid rent

If the tenant fails to pay rent or moves out before the lease ends, the landlord can use the security deposit to cover the unpaid rent. This includes any rent owed for the remainder of the lease term if the tenant breaks the lease early.

Damage beyond normal wear and tear

The security deposit can be used to repair or replace any damages to the unit beyond normal wear and tear. This includes damages such as large holes in the wall, broken appliances, stained carpet, or other property damages. The landlord will need to provide documentation such as receipts or repair invoices when deducting for damages.

Cleaning costs

If the tenant leaves the unit excessively dirty, the landlord can deduct reasonable cleaning costs to restore the unit to its original level of cleanliness. This may include carpet cleaning, deep cleaning, trash removal costs, or other reasonable cleaning expenses.

The key is that deductions must be directly related to the terms of the lease and documented accordingly. Normal wear and tear cannot be deducted in Hawaii. The landlord has the burden of proof for any deductions, so proper documentation is essential.

Normal Wear and Tear

Landlords in Hawaii cannot deduct from the security deposit for normal wear and tear. Normal wear and tear refers to the expected decline in condition that occurs naturally over time from the tenant's reasonable use of the rental property.

Examples of normal wear and tear that cannot be deducted in Hawaii include:

  • Faded paint, wallpaper, or carpeting from sunlight exposure over time
  • Wood floors developing minor scratches or small dents
  • Worn out keys or lock mechanisms from everyday use
  • Textured walls or ceilings accumulating minor scuff marks  
  • Cabinet handles or door knobs getting slightly loose

Damage that goes beyond normal wear and tear can be deducted. This includes things like:

  • Large stains or excessive dirtiness requiring extra cleaning 
  • Broken tiles, windows, or holes in the wall
  • Burn marks or permanent discoloration 
  • Missing or damaged appliances or fixtures
  • Pet damage like scratched doors or urine stains on carpets

The difference between normal wear vs. excessive damage is determined on a case by case basis. But in general, minor aesthetic issues that naturally result from ordinary habitation are wear and tear. Excessive neglect, misuse or destruction is considered damage.

Tenant's Obligations

Tenants have certain obligations they must fulfill when moving out in order to ensure the proper return of their security deposit. 

Provide a Forwarding Address

It is the tenant's responsibility to provide the landlord with a forwarding address where the deposit should be returned after move-out. The landlord is only obligated to send the deposit to the address provided by the tenant. Failure to supply an updated address can delay or prevent the return of the deposit.

Leave the Unit in the Same Condition 

The tenant is required to leave the rental unit in the same condition as when possession was taken, except for normal wear and tear. The unit should be properly cleaned and free of damages beyond regular use. Tenants can conduct a walkthrough inspection with the landlord and agree on any areas that require cleaning or repair prior to move-out.

Return All Keys and Access Materials

The tenant must return all keys, access cards, garage door openers, gate remotes, and any other materials that allow access to the property. Failure to return these items can result in deductions from the security deposit to replace them. The tenant should coordinate a time with the landlord prior to move-out to return all access materials and complete a final inspection.

Landlord Record Keeping

Hawaii law requires landlords to provide documentation supporting any deductions from the security deposit. When returning a deposit, landlords must include an itemized list of deductions along with receipts, bills, invoices or other evidence showing the costs incurred.

For example, if a landlord deducts $500 for carpet cleaning, they would need to provide a receipt from the carpet cleaning company showing the services performed and fees charged. Or if $250 is deducted for painting, the landlord would need to submit a copy of the painter's invoice listing the labor and materials.

Landlords cannot make vague deductions for general cleaning or repairs. The amounts must clearly correlate to actual vendor bills, invoices or receipts. 

Tenants should review the documentation to ensure the charges are valid and aligned with the condition of the unit upon move-out. Amounts should accurately reflect work done specifically in that rental unit.

Requiring detailed invoices and receipts allows tenants to dispute unreasonable or improper deductions. It creates transparency and accountability. If a landlord fails to furnish proper documentation, the tenant may have grounds to pursue full return of the deposit.

Thorough record keeping also reminds both parties to be mindful when assessing deposit deductions. Landlords should retain all paperwork in case of future disputes. Tenants should also keep copies of the documentation for their records.

Interest Payments on Deposits  

Hawaii state law does not require landlords to pay interest on security deposits. Some local jurisdictions may have additional regulations requiring interest payments, but there is no statewide statute mandating interest.

Landlords in Hawaii are not obligated to place deposits in an interest-bearing account. Tenants are not entitled to receive interest when their deposit is returned. The security deposit belongs to the tenant, but they have no legal right under Hawaii law to earn interest on it during their tenancy.

Some tenant advocacy groups have argued that deposits should earn interest to offset the effects of inflation and compensate renters for the time value of their money. However, proposals to require interest payments on deposits in Hawaii have not gained traction in the state legislature. 

Absent local ordinances, Hawaii landlords can collect security deposits without accruing or paying any interest to the tenant. This remains the status quo under Hawaii state law.

Disputes and Damages

If a landlord improperly withholds a security deposit in Hawaii, tenants have several options to resolve the dispute.

The most common recourse is to file a claim in small claims court. In Hawaii, small claims courts can hear cases up to $5,000, making them well-suited to handle many security deposit disputes. Tenants will need to gather evidence like the lease agreement, move-in and move-out inspections, and communications with the landlord. 

If the tenant wins in small claims court, the judge can award the full deposit amount, plus statutory damages up to twice the amount improperly withheld. Tenants can represent themselves without an attorney in small claims court.

Hawaii law also allows for tenants to recover up to 3 times the security deposit amount if the landlord retained it in bad faith. Punitive damages may also apply if the landlord maliciously withheld the deposit.

For disputes involving pet deposits, the tenant is generally liable for any damages caused by their pets per the lease terms. But normal wear and tear from pets cannot be deducted from security deposits. Landlords need to prove excessive damage to deduct pet deposit money.

Overall, Hawaii tenants have strong legal rights to recover their security deposits if landlords violate the laws. Using small claims court and the state deposit statutes can help tenants recoup their hard-earned deposit money. Maintaining proper documentation is key.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the deposit laws in Hawaii?

In Hawaii, landlords can ask for a security deposit up to an amount equivalent to one month's rent. Landlords must return the security deposit within 14 days after the tenant vacates the property, along with an itemized statement if there are any deductions for damages or unpaid rent.

What is considered normal wear and tear on a rental property in Hawaii?

Normal wear and tear in Hawaii includes minor issues that occur naturally over time, such as fading paint, carpet wear from normal use, and minor scuffs or nicks in walls. It does not include significant damage like large holes, stains, or burns in the carpeting or flooring.

What can't a landlord do in Hawaii?

In Hawaii, landlords are prohibited from:

  • Discriminating against tenants based on race, religion, national origin, sex, familial status, or disability.
  • Evicting a tenant without proper judicial process.
  • Entering a tenant's unit without appropriate notice except in emergencies — typically at least two days' notice is required for non-emergency visits.
  • Retaliating against tenants for exercising their legal rights, such as complaining about unsafe living conditions.

What is the standard pet deposit in Hawaii?

Hawaii does not have a specific statute that limits the amount a landlord can charge for a pet deposit. However, any pet deposit would typically be in addition to the standard security deposit, and the total of all deposits still cannot exceed the equivalent of one month's rent. It's important to specify in the lease agreement that the additional deposit is specifically for a pet.

What is normal wear and tear in Hawaii?

Normal wear and tear in Hawaii, similar to general standards, refers to the natural and gradual deterioration of the rental property over time under normal conditions. This includes small scratches or dents in wood surfaces, wear in carpet traffic areas, fading or peeling of paint, and aging appliances. This does not cover extensive damages or cleanliness issues that are beyond what would occur through normal, careful use.

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